Thursday, March 25, 2010


One of the features I have discovered during my testing of the Ubuntu10.04 beta is a nifty program called byobu, a slick wrapper for the screen terminal multiplexing program.  If you are unfamiliar with screen, please see the final installment of my Building An All-Text Linux Workstation series.

byobu was introduced in Ubuntu 09.10 and continues in 10.04.  The name "byobu" comes from a Japanese word meaning "folding screen."  Essentially, byobu adds an improved user interface to screen and takes advantage some advanced features in recent screen versions.  On a system so equipped, you launch byobu like this:

bshotts@twin7:~$ byobu

and you get a display like this:

We get a screen terminal session with system status notifications at the bottom of the terminal display.

byobu allows the use of function keys in addition to the usual Ctrl-a sequences supported by screen.  As indicated at the bottom right corner of the terminal, the F9 key invokes a menu:

Function Key Assignments

byobu assigns function keys to perform many of the common operations performed by screen, such as opening new terminal sessions, moving from session to session, and entering scroll back mode.  Selecting the "Help" item on the menu displays a map of the program's function key assignments:

Status Notifications

Also of interest is the list of available system indicators which is visible when the "Toggle status notifications" item is selected on the menu:

As you can see this is a pretty big list.

Other Features

It's also possible to create default windows, that is, terminal sessions that appear automatically when you start byobu.  This is handy if you have several applications that you want to start when you log in at the terminal.

Further Reading
  • The screen and byobu man pages
byobu's home at Launchpad
A Wikipedia article on Japanese folding screens